Brendan Rodgers returns to Liverpool at helm of high-flying Leicester

Liverpool’s players celebrate their fourth goal during their Champions League match against Salzburg in Liverpool on Wednesday. (Reuters)
Updated 04 October 2019

Brendan Rodgers returns to Liverpool at helm of high-flying Leicester

  • Rodgers was dismissed by the Merseyside club after a three-year stint as manager
  • Jurgen Klopp’s side are once again locked in an intense rivalry with City

LIVERPOOL: Brendan Rodgers guided Liverpool to the brink of the Premier League title when he was in charge at Anfield. Now, on his first return since leaving 4 years ago, the Leicester boss is aiming to slow his former club’s latest championship challenge and demonstrate that his side deserve to be considered top-four contenders.

Rodgers was dismissed by the Merseyside club after a three-year stint as manager little more than a year after his side had fallen agonizingly short in their efforts to beat Manuel Pellegrini’s Manchester City to top spot in 2014.

Five years on, Jurgen Klopp’s side are once again locked in an intense rivalry with City and will attempt to maintain their perfect start to the league campaign on Saturday.

However, the combination of Leicester’s impressive resurgence under Rodgers and Liverpool’s unconvincing midweek Champions League display against Salzburg means Klopp’s side face a tough task to make it eight wins from eight.

Rodgers returned to the league in February after a trophy-laden spell in Scotland with Celtic, charged with injecting fresh life into a Leicester side that had lost its way under Claude Puel.

The excitement of the thrilling title success in 2016 had faded, with Puel accused of adopting a negative style of play that meant mid-table was the best the club could hope for.

The arrival of Rodgers provided an immediate lift and he has restored belief at the King Power Stadium that the club can establish itself among the leading group of clubs.

HIGHLIGHTS

• The combination of Leicester’s impressive resurgence under Brendan Rodgers and Liverpool’s unconvincing midweek Champions League display against Salzburg means Jurgen Klopp’s side face a tough task to make it eight wins from eight.

•Leicester have lost just once this season and are third in the league on 14 points, nestled behind Liverpool and Manchester City.

He has done that while continuing the process of rebuilding the team — of the title-winning lineup, only goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel and striker Jamie Vardy have been regular starters this season.

Having been touted as a contender to finish 6th in the league, the “best of the rest,” before the campaign, the Foxes’ subsequent form has seen them spoken of as a top-four side.

Leicester have lost just once this season and are third in the league on 14 points, nestled behind Liverpool and Manchester City.

But Rodgers is cautious.

“It is still all going to take time. The gap has increased between the top and the rest of the top six, so there is still a big ask to close that,” he said in an interview withthe Telegraph.

“We spent £19 million ($23.5 million) net in the summer and lost our center-half, but it does not stop us wanting to challenge. I am loving it here and the challenge of taking the team up there.”

The manager has blended an exciting crop of young players including England pair Ben Chilwell and James Maddison and midfielders Wilfred Ndidi, Youri Tielemans and Harvey Barnes with older heads such as Schmeichel, Vardy and Jonny Evans.

Marc Albrighton, a survivor of the title-winning team who appeared from the bench in Sunday’s 5-0 defeat of Newcastle United, believes the current group is stronger than the squad 3 years ago.

Klopp is well aware of Leicester’s threat, particularly if the Premier League leaders defend like they did against Salzburg, when they squandered a three-goal lead before recovering to win 4-3.

“I am sure Brendan Rodgers thinks if we protect (defend) like we did tonight then Jamie Vardy will probably run through five times alone on the goalkeeper,” he said after the match in midweek.

Rodgers, for his part, said he was proud to have been given a chance at Anfield, even though it came early in his career.

“At 39 I was able to manage one of the great football institutions,” he said. “I am just so looking forward to going back.”


Liverpool look to sign off in style as Vardy hunts record

Updated 35 min 2 sec ago

Liverpool look to sign off in style as Vardy hunts record

  • Jurgen Klopp’s men are eight points clear of their nearest pursuers

LONDON: Liverpool will seek to sign off their pre-Christmas Premier League duties in style against their whipping boys Watford this weekend while Leicester attempt to stay in touch before a summit meeting later this month.

Jurgen Klopp’s men are eight points clear of their nearest pursuers as they prepare to jet out to Qatar for the Club World Cup. On Friday, Klopp agreed a contract extension with Liverpool until 2024. 

“For me personally this is a statement of intent, one which is built on my knowledge of what we as a partnership have achieved so far and what is still there for us to achieve,” the 52-year-old Klopp told Liverpool’s official website.

“When I see the development of the club and the collaborative work that continues to take place, I feel my contribution can only grow.”

Meanwhile, Watford, with new manager Nigel Pearson at the helm, will not be relishing the trip to Anfield, where they have lost 6-1, 5-0 and 5-0 on their past three visits.

Pep Guardiola takes his stumbling Manchester City team to face Arsenal while Manchester United look to keep up their push for a top-four spot at home to Everton.

Jamie Vardy, who turns 33 next month, is out on his own at the top of the Premier League goalscoring charts, with 16 goals in 16 games.

Those goals have helped Leicester win a club-record eight consecutive top-flight matches by an aggregate score of 25-3. The former England man has struck in all of those victories.

In an ordinary season, Brendan Rodgers’ side might be top of the league but they are doggedly pursuing a Liverpool team who have won 15 of their 16 games.

If Vardy nets against Norwich and Manchester City in Leicester’s next two games, he would give himself the chance to equal his own Premier League record of goals in 11 straight games against Liverpool on Dec. 26.

Vardy says he is more concerned about results for the team than finding the back of the net.

“I’m obviously over the moon,” said the forward, referring to his goalscoring record this season. “But first and foremost, the points are for Leicester.”

Frank Lampard is desperate not to squander the good work he has done with his young side in the early months of the season but is weighing up where he can strengthen now he is able to sign players in January.

The club’s FIFA-imposed transfer ban following violations in the recruitment of minors, was reduced on appeal by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) last week.